Simply put, a fracture always refers to a bone that has been broken. And no bones about it, fractures can cause serious damage if left untreated. They can range from minor to severe, but will always require medical attention to ensure proper recovery. Your symptoms and treatment options will vary based on the type of break you sustain. Fractures are categorized as either “open” or “closed”, and “incomplete” or “complete”.
- Closed Fracture
The broken bone is under the skin.
- Open Fracture
The broken bone breaks through the surface of the skin (also known as a compound fracture).
- Incomplete Fracture
The bone is cracked, but not completely broken through (also known as a hairline or greenstick fracture).
- Complete Fracture
The bone is broken through in one or more places.
The injured body part will also indicate the severity of the fracture. For example, a break in the back or neck will require more specialized attention than a broken finger or toe.
Understanding fracture symptoms can help with recovery and avoid long-term health issues.
What are common symptoms of a fractured bone?
Pain is always present with a broken bone. Other symptoms include:
- A pop, snap, or grinding sound at the time of injury
- Bruising & swelling
- Discolored Skin
- Inability to bear weight on the body part
- Deformed appearance in the injured area
- Protruding bone (in the case of an open fracture)
What are common causes of fractures?
Applied force is necessary for a bone to break. This may be caused by a serious accident or through everyday bumps and spills. Common reasons include:
- Sports-related injuries
- Hard falls, like on a patch of ice or on stairs
- High-speed collisions (car, motorcycle, bicycle, skateboard, skiing, etc.)
- Slamming a body part (finger in car door, or a toe into a chair)
Some people are more likely to experience a fracture than others. For example, if your bones are weak or brittle due to age or osteoporosis, you have an increased risk.
It’s also very common for children to experience a broken bone. Children are prone to accidents, and the ligaments surrounding their joints are stronger than their developing bones. This means that force applied to a child’s joint is more likely to damage the bone rather than the ligament, resulting in more frequently broken bones.
How long does a fracture last?
Minor fractures can heal within a few weeks, while more severe breaks may take months to fully heal. Healing time will always vary based on the type of break you experience, how quickly you seek treatment, and how attentive you are to caring for your injury.
An X-ray will be necessary to show the severity of the fracture and the results will influence the best plan for treatment. If there is damage to soft tissue, you may also receive an MRI or CT scan.
Treatment options include:
- A splint or cast to keep the affected area immobilized
- Medication to reduce pain
- Physical therapy for rehabilitation
It’s important to adhere to the care instructions your doctor provides. This will ensure proper healing and can help you to avoid further injury.
How to prevent fractures?
Some accidents are impossible to avoid. But, being aware of your surroundings and avoiding dangerous behaviors can help to prevent broken bones.
If you’re a daredevil, staying prepared for your activity of choice can help to prevent breaks. Always wear proper clothing and footwear, and remember to use your protective equipment, like helmets, elbow and knee pads.
Something that you can do to limit damage from accidents is to build bone and body strength. Exercising daily can keep your muscles strong, better protecting you against the force that may cause a bone to break. If you’re diagnosed with low bone density, talk to your doctor about what options are best to build bone strength.